Photo: Michael Chisholm / Tennis Canada

Downey’s illustrious career at the organization’s helm, which brought historic success both on and off the court, will end on December 31, 2023.

After an illustrious career headlined by 15 years as Tennis Canada’s President and Chief Executive Officer, split over two terms, Michael Downey has announced he will retire at the end of December 2023. Under his leadership, the organization has experienced success both on and off the court that is unparalleled in its 133-year history.

“Being Chief Executive of Tennis Canada has been my dream job,” Downey commented. “I was downright lucky to have held this coveted leadership position not once, but twice. I take great pride in our highly talented, gender and city-balanced senior management team that will ensure the bold ambitions of our new strategic plan will be achieved. I have also been inspired by young, proud Canadians named Milos, Genie, Gaby, Aleks, Vasek, Rebecca, Félix, Bianca, Denis, Leylah Annie and, of course, the elder statesman, Daniel. They are all household names because of their on and off-court brilliance. But, their greatest legacy will be the inspiration they provide to the future generation of Canadian talent that will, in due course, ensure Canada remains a world-leading tennis nation.”

Downey’s first term as President and CEO, from 2004 to 2013, saw him develop a bold plan to diversify and increase revenue generated by the National Bank Open presented by Rogers to reinvest in high performance and tennis development in Canada. In 2007, he prompted the Board of Directors to invest over $1 million annually in high performance which led to the formation of the National Tennis Centre presented by Rogers in Montreal and regional U14 programs in Toronto, Montreal and later Vancouver. The likes of Bianca Andreescu, Eugenie Bouchard, Milos Raonic and Félix Auger-Aliassime trained at the National Tennis Centre before graduating to the professional tours.

“Michael has championed Tennis Canada through major growth periods for both our tennis development and commercial businesses and he successfully steered the organization through the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic,” commented Peter Kruyt, Chair of the Board, Tennis Canada. “Under his leadership, we have helped develop Canadian players to win multiple junior Grand Slams and, for the first time ever, a Canadian singles player won the US Open and our very own National Bank Open presented by Rogers. Last November, Team Canada won the Davis Cup for the first time in our history, lending credence to our vision that Canada become a world-leading tennis nation. Thanks to Michael, Tennis Canada has never been in better shape, nor had a better management team than today, and we are grateful to him for this legacy.”

From 2013 to 2017, Downey was appointed to oversee British Tennis as Chief Executive Officer of the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). There, he led the development of a new strategic plan focused on reversing a decade-long decline in grassroots participation. With a strong focus on parks tennis and attracting young families to clubs, British Tennis achieved nearly two million monthly recreational players.

Downey returned to Tennis Canada in July 2017. Two years later, the organization celebrated its first Canadian National Bank Open winner in 50 years and a first-ever Grand Slam singles champion when Andreescu beat tennis legend Serena Williams in finals at Sobeys Stadium and Arthur Ashe Stadium respectively. That November, Team Canada advanced to the Davis Cup final, losing to host nation Spain.

Despite the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, Downey successfully steered the organization through the global pandemic, even managing to secure a new 10-year corporate partnership with National Bank to become the title partner of Canada’s ATP and WTA 1000 events in Toronto and Montreal. The agreement, which is the single longest in the history of tennis in Canada, also saw an increase in National Bank’s support for the development of the sport in Canada with significant investment in flagship programs.

In 2022, Tennis Canada enjoyed a banner year, highlighted by the return of record-breaking, full-capacity National Bank Open events in Toronto and Montreal as well as Team Canada becoming World Champions after securing its first-ever Davis Cup crown, beating Australia in the final in Malaga, Spain. The organization also accelerated its capacity building efforts as the first four year-round tennis court projects were completed through the Year-Round Community Tennis Court Program presented by Rogers; an initiative initially envisioned and driven by Downey with the aim of making the sport more accessible to Canadians.

A search for a new Chief Executive Officer is already underway, led by Tennis Canada’s Board of Directors and with the support of a leading external recruitment firm.